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Commonwealth Games: David Grevemberg supports respectful 'advocacy and activism'

"Political statements, it's not the platform for, but what we're saying is that issues around advocacy and activism that are respectful and peaceful, those are the elements that we're looking at right now."

David Grevemberg - chief Executive, Commonwealth Games Federation
Image: David Grevemberg was speaking two years before the next Commonwealth Games starts in Birmingham

David Grevemberg, Commonwealth Games Federation CEO, supports the notion of respectful "advocacy and activism" by athletes.

July 28 marked exactly two years until the start of the multi-sport competition in Birmingham and speaking to Sky Sports, the CEO discussed their position on athletes' right to protest or show support for causes they believe in in.

It's an area of discussion that's been ignited further recently with regard to the Olympics in Tokyo 2020 and Rule 50 of the Olympic Charter stating that "no kind of demonstration or political, religious or racial propaganda is permitted in any Olympic sites, venues or other areas".

However, when it comes to Birmingham 2022, Grevemberg and the organisers are expressing solidarity with athletes who wish to show 'advocacy', for example taking a knee on the podium in support for the Black Lives Matter movement.

"One of things is that the notion of protest is only one aspect of one's identity or one's sense of voice. What we have really tried to look at, is that we want to create a platform that really stands for some really fundamental principles; freedom, fairness, equality and justice," said Grevemberg.

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Pozzi wants IOC to change Rule 50

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"The Commonwealth really embodies all of these elements and so by allowing people to express their identity, by allowing people to have their sense of belonging not only to the Commonwealth, but to themselves and their right of association, to give them opportunities to advocate as well as take action. That's what this platform is for.

"Obviously, that needs to be done in a respectful and peaceful manner. Many people have asked us, are you politicising sport by being so agile in this space? We're trying to humanise sport. That is really a step that the Federation has been taking over the past several editions to really bring some of these conversations to the forefront.

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"Political statements, it's not the platform for, but what we're saying is that issues around advocacy and activism that are respectful and peaceful, those are the elements that we're looking at right now.

"We're not looking to prescribe those actions but what we are saying, looking at this and giving guidance to people to have that respectful activism, these are elements that we'll be asking people to consider as they make those decisions for themselves."

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Team GB to back athletes if they take knee at Olympics

The British Olympic Association will back any athlete who wishes to take a knee in solidarity with the Black Lives Matter movement at the rescheduled Tokyo Games.

The subjects of advocacy and activism are two of a number being widely spoken about with regard to Birmingham 2022. Prior to previous multi-sport events, like the Olympic Games in London 2012, the cost and delivery of the games were the areas being scrutinised.

Now, issues of diversity and relevance are key topics and with the growth of understanding and engagement around the Black Lives Matter movement, a debate around what place the Games has in 21st-century society is ongoing.

It's link to the British 'Empire' - it was of course previously called 'The British Empire Games' - grates with many. Those involved with Birmingham 2022 and the Commonwealth Games Federation, while wishing to recognise Britain's past, want to use the forthcoming event to move forward in a positive way.

"There are a number of elements in terms of where the Commonwealth has stood as a force for freedom, fairness, equality and justice," Grevemberg said.

"Throughout Commonwealth communities and the geography of the Commonwealth as well, it is diverse in terms of demographics but also in terms of history and shared history.

"Now, is a time to start to talk about that history in its full form. That's one of the things that we are embracing, we have been embracing and I would encourage people to look at our strategic plan.

Team England Basketball player Dominique Allen poses for portraits in Centenary Square on July 14, 2020 in Birmingham, England
Image: Team England will play the 3x3 basketball at a newly announced venue - Smithfield

"This isn't a new conversation for us in terms of talking about the realities of post-Colonial and post-conflict issues that are still affecting communities today.

"We need to actually run towards these conversations and really make not just the most of these conversations in terms of just talking but actually walking that talk."

Grevemberg points towards the Reconciliation Action Plan which was part of the Gold Coast games in 2018 and at the time of its launch, he highlighted its importance.

"We passionately believe that Gold Coast 2018 can and must support the process of indigenous reconciliation and social justice, at home in Australia, and further afield by recognising and honouring First Nations people across the Commonwealth," he said at the time.

"The focus that we're looking at now in terms of the dversity of Birmingham and the West Midlands and some of the boarder conversations that we're having throughout the Commonwealth and the world, is how can we be a beacon for respect and protection around some of these injustices, historical injustices, and also promote and empower through the power of sport.

"That's where we are today, it's coming up with a number of programmes that allow us to have these conversations but also innovate and create new ways that we come together and address these situations."

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